While the Punjab government has acted generously by donating Rs 1 crore to Lawrence School, Sanawar, the same generosity is missing when it comes to paying the electricity bills of schools run by it.
With the government refusing to pay the electricity bills of these schools, most of them are either forcing students to pay up or running the show with kundi connections.
As admitted by education minister Sikander Singh Maluka himself, the government has not given even a single rupee to any school to pay for the bills. "We have marked no funds for schools to pay electricity bills. We are aware of the problem. While some schools are paying the bills out of the lease rent from the land they own, in other cases, panchayats are paying for it. But we have discussed the issue with the chief minister and are working out a permanent solution to the problem," he said.
A large number of government schools in almost all districts are collecting money from students to clear their electricity dues. The government primary school in Talwandi Nau Bahar village of Moga district is running on kundi connection. "We do not have a power meter for the past several years. Electricity department officials had cut our power connection a few months ago in peak summer. They spared us when we requested them to restore our connection, citing the difficulties faced by students," said Kulwinder Singh, a teacher of the school.
Another school in Masitan village of the same district is also being run on kundi connection for the past several years. The situation is no different in other districts of the state.
Many schools with electricity meters are paying the bills from mid-day meal funds. "It is an open secret that many primary and middle-level schools in the state are being run on kundi connections. The money for the bills is either collected from students or teachers," said Jaswinder Singh Sidhu, president of the ETT Teachers' Union, Punjab.
A few months ago, the Punjab State Power Corporation Ltd (PSPCL) had ordered to cut the electricity connections of all primary and middle schools in Faridkot district after the schools did not pay the bills.
Earlier, many government schools were paying the bills from parent-teacher funds. But since 2009 when the Right to Education Act was enforced in Punjab, no fee is being collected from government school students up to Class 8. Many high schools still have some leftover funds, from which they are paying the bills. But primary and middle schools are the worst hit.
"Generally, we don't cut their connections to avoid inconvenience to students. They make the payments when they have the funds," said PSPCL chairman-cum-managing director KD Chowdhry.